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Baseball Tips from The Grip N’ Rip Club
The Grip N’ Rip Club video blog features local instructors as they review tips, drills, and baseball fundamentals. Find more here.
By Gethin Coolbaugh
Opening Day may be nearly two months away, but many Fenway faithful were buzzing within the depth of America’s Most Beloved Ballpark on Thursday night.
Yet it wasn’t a baseball game that had fans humming, but rather a gathering of local baseball aficionados.
The Grip N’ Rip Club hosted a networking event for the local baseball community at Game On, a sports bar located inside of Fenway Park.
The event was highlighted by an appearance and Q&A session with former Boston and Montreal General Manager Dan Duquette.
In addition to free food and drink, the event offered a plethora of tables featuring various companies that sell baseball-related products.
All of the proceeds were donated to children from Kevin Youkilis’ Hits for Kids charity to attend an overnight sports camp this summer
Guests were even allowed to use a Fenway Park batting cage connected to Game On, where my friend Matt Nelson took a few cuts (and hit ‘em pretty hard, too).
Boston Sports U18 also got in on the fun, as the site’s founder and owner, Michael Winn, set up and manned the table along with myself.
Jeff Hickman and Patrick Gilroy, the hosts of the Celtic Pride which can be heard on Saturday’s from 10-11 a.m. on 1120AM, 1390AM, and 970AM in Massachusetts, and in New Hampshire on ESPN affiliate WGAM 1250AM and 900AM , manned the microphones throughout the night, going booth-to-booth to hype up the products of various groups as well as announcing the raffle winners.
BSU18 even got its own mention, as Mike and I explained the website’s concept to all of the guests.
In truth, I could not have asked for a better way to issue in the new baseball season.
Although the event was intended as a networking event, the atmosphere was buzzing with excitement about the coming baseball season.
It was a wonderful opportunity to network, as Mike and I both met and talked with old and new acquaintances.
And of course, the cherry on top, the night concluded with a question and answer session with Duquette.
In case you were unable to attend and did not hear Duquette speak, I have provided the transcript of the interview below.
DAN DUQUETTE Q&A
DUQUETTE – I want to thank Andy Katz for putting this together, and I want to thank Kevin Youkilis and his foundation for supporting our event tonight.
Question: What was the worst non-move that you ever made as the Red Sox General Manager?
DUQUETTE – The biggest non-move that I made as GM of the Red Sox was when we first picked up Pedro (Martinez), we had an opportunity to trade him for Randy Johnson. We decided to keep Pedro.
Actually, we really couldn’t have gone wrong. If you looked at Randy’s record, he pitched more innings than Pedro, but I’m still glad we had Pedro.
Question: If this were still your team, would you lead Pedro get away from the Boston Red Sox when Mr. Pedro Martinez left the Red Sox?
DUQUETTE - It’s not my team. It never was my team. It’s your team (pointing to Red Sox fans in crowd).
But Pedro was great. I’m glad that we had him.
Question: I think a lot of Red Sox fans are wondering this: If you were in Theo Epstein’s shoes now, would you have handled the Jason Bay situation in the same way that Theo did. What would you have done differently?
DUQUETTE – With Jason Bay, I think the Red Sox probably could have signed him a little earlier, like in spring training.
I think if they had to do it over again, they probably would have done that.
Question: What are your thoughts on steroid use in the MLB?
DUQUETTE – They work very effectively (laughing).
Question: In the 1994 World Series, you (could of) had the best two teams in baseball: the Yankees and your Montreal Expos. If the two of them played, who wins? How many games and why?
DUQUETTE – Thank you for that question. I have to tell you, the Expos had a better pitching rotation, they had better athletes and they had better (bench).
We never played in the World Series in ’94, but the Expos missed their opportunity.
We had (Larry) Walker, (Marquis) Grissom and (Moises) Alou in the outfielder and we had Felipe Alou in the dugout. We had (John) Wetteland, (Mel) Rojas and Jeff Shaw in the bullpen.
A year later, they all saved forty games, and the team was on pace to win 111 games that year, and that wasn’t by accident since they had the best talent.
But, it didn’t happen. You know what they say, timing in life is everything.
Question: What are your thought on an imposed salary cap in baseball?
DUQUETTE – My thoughts on the salary cap are that they will never happen. I don’t think that’s anything that the players would ever go for.
The system they have now has a bit of a cap on the teams that have a lot of money, because they have to pay a tax after a certain amount.
Effectively it works, but there’s still a pretty disparaging group of teams.
Question: The other sports have salary caps. Baseball is sort of unique (because) you have teams, the haves and the have-nots. There’s sharing of money in baseball. I think the larger question here is what are your thoughts as a baseball executive about the salary floor, making sure that teams spend at least a certain amount of money to field a competitive team on a year-in, year-out basis?
DUQUETTE – There already is a salary floor, but teams that don’t have a lot of money don’t have a real high floor to start with.
So, the revenue is shared and given to those teams, and then generally, they use it on their players.
Some teams like the Pirates, they don’t.
Question: Dan, if you had to get rid of any of the Red Sox to get Adrian Gonzalez, who would it be and why?
DUQUETTE – First of all, he’s not available. It’s a ridiculous question. He’s never been available.
We’ve been reading about him for eight months, and they guy is going nowhere.
He’s the best hitter in the National League, and he’s at a young age where he’s going to stay in San Diego.
And then, who would I give up on the Red Sox? We’ll, (Gonzalez) would probably be their most valuable asset, so the answer to that is just about anybody.
Question: Of the players that the Red Sox recently have acquired, is there a particular player that you champion the effort for? Is there a player that you thought was better than others?
DUQUETTE – I like (John) Lackey. I think Lackey’s going to be a good addition to the club.
Question: Five or six years removed from living here in Boston, do you ever get sick of the questions about the Boston Red Sox?
DUQUETTE – You know, the great thing about events like this is that everybody shares a great love for baseball and the Red Sox.
So if we can’t talk about them, I think it’s refreshing that we come here in the middle of February in the bowels of Fenway Park to talk about the Red Sox and baseball.
What could be better than that? Maybe being at spring training in a couple of weeks?
Question: As a GM, what time of the year do you take the most Tums and why?
DUQUETTE – I would say that that depends on how good your team is that you assemble.
The worst time for a General Manager is when his team falls out of contention.
If you’re the General Manager of a major-market team, and your team falls out of contention, all hell breaks loose, and it continues until the end of the season.
Question (from Patrick Gilroy): As a rookie member of the Boston media since 2004, as somebody who is under the microscope of probably one of the most heated sports markets in the entire country, and we sort of hear alot about the Boston sports media in other major markets.
I’m curious, what your true feelings and true opinions are about the Boston sports media and what the sports media played a part in the Red Sox ability to achieve. Did that whole Dan Shaughnessy negative activity play any part in what went on with the Boston Red Sox in your time here.
DUQUETTE – First of all, Patrick, I love you and I love the Boston media.
I always have, I always will.
And you give Shaughnessy way too much power.
Gethin Coolbaugh is the Associate Editor of Boston Sports U18. He can be reached at 774-279-1995 or at [email protected] You can also visit Gethin Coolbaugh’s official website and follow Gethin Coolbaugh on Twitter as well as his official NBA Twitter account.